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   The genus name, "Pedicularis", given by Linnaeus in 1753, is derived from the Latin "pediculus",  meaning "lice".   A bygone belief had it that the plant gave lice to people and cattle.   Or, according to some sources, the plant was thought to cure people or cattle of lice!   "Wort" is from the Old English, "wyrt", meaning "plant" (Figwort, Spiderwort, Spleenwort).   In the West, members of this genus are commonly called "Lousewort"; in the East they are often called "Wood Betony".

     Genetic research has shown that Pedicularis belongs in the Broomrape Family (Orobanchaceae), not in the Snapdragon Family (Scrophulariaceae).

To Pedicularis racemosa   To Pedicularis groenlandica   To Pedicularis centranthera

Pedicularis bracteosa
Pedicularis bracteosa variety paysoniana (Fern Leaf Lousewort, Towering Lousewort)
Orobanchaceae (Broomrape Family)

Subalpine, alpine. Woodlands. Summer.
Kilpacker Trail, July 22, 2004.

Pedicularis bracteosa is common in subalpine woods.  Its delicate, fern-like leaves precede a 2-3 foot tall flower stalk bearing yellow, beaked flowers. It is common to find a dozen or more of this species in a small area.

P. bracteosa can be confused with its taller, slightly less common cousin, Pedicularis procera (see below) but the latter is much taller (to over 3 feet tall), has stouter stems, and has larger light yellow/white flowers that are tinged with rusty streaks. The leaves of both plants are large and deeply cut (fern-like) but those of P. bracteosa are about 7-15 cm long and those of P. procera are about 15-30 cm long and often more deeply and repeatedly incised. P. bracteosa leaves are mainly cauline (on the stem), those of P. procera are mostly basal.

Thomas Drummond and David Douglas are each given credit for being the first to collect this plant for science -- probably in 1827. Drummond found it in "Shady alpine woods of the Rocky Mountains" (as quoted in Intermountain Flora), probably in the Canadian Rockies. Douglas found it in "Northwest America". "Bracteosa" means "bearing bracts", tiny leaves typically subtending flowers. See the photograph below.

Pedicularis bracteosa

Pedicularis bracteosa

Pedicularis bracteosa variety paysoniana (Fern Leaf Lousewort, Towering Lousewort)
Orobanchaceae (Broomrape Family)

Subalpine, alpine. Woodlands. Summer.
Navajo Lake Trail, July 6, 2004 and
Sharkstooth Trail, July 12, 2016.

Bracts with very hairy margins subtend numerous lemon yellow flowers in a spike formation. Flowers first open at the bottom of the spike; you can see the last flowers ready to open at the top of the spike.

Compound, fern-like leaves are largest toward the base of the plant and reduced in size upward.

Pedicularis parryi

Pedicularis parryi

Pedicularis parryi

 

 

 

Pedicularis parryi subspecies parryi (Parry's Alpine Lousewort)
Orobanchaceae (Broomrape Family)

Subalpine, alpine. Woodlands, openings, meadows. Summer.
Above: Kennebec Pass area, August 14, 2019.
Left: Sharkstooth Trail, July 15, 2004. American Basin, July 24, 2007.
Immediately below: Cross Mountain Trail, August 5, 2019.

This delicate plant shows itself only at high elevations, most commonly above tree line. Like its lower elevation cousins, P. bracteosa and P. procera, P. parryi has beaked flowers and fern-like leaves, but its flowers are usually much lighter yellow or even white and its leaves are much more delicate than those of P. bracteosa and P. procera. The leaves are. however, very similar to those of Elephant Heads.

The top photograph at left, taken at 12,000 feet, shows a Pedicularis parryi just four inches tall. The bottom photograph at left shows the lovely red/purple streaking on the flower stalk between flowers. The photograph immediately below shows a young plant entwined in its own arms (its bracts), flowers neatly tucked away in minute buds.

"Parryi" is for eminent 19th century botanist Charles Parry who collected this in 1861 and had it described by Asa Gray in 1862. (More biographical information about Parry.)

                                       Pedicularis parryi

Pedicularis procera
Pedicularis procera
Pedicularis procera (Giant Lousewort)
Orobanchaceae (Broomrape Family)

Montane, subalpine. Woodlands, openings. Summer.
Groundhog Meadow Trail, July 31, 2004.

Pedicularis procera often grows to be a giant of four feet tall.  Its large, beaked flowers are a creamy yellow with streaks of orange-red. It is fairly common and very obvious in moist forests and forest openings in the higher mountains, first attracting attention as it emerges from the ground with large, fern-like leaves.

As shown in the second page of Pedicularis procera photographs, a number of plants often grow close to each other making a startlingly attractive arrangement in their common Aspen woods habitat. Unfortunately Deer and Elk relish the tasty flower heads and ruin the attractive arrangement by nipping off the flower heads.

Charles Parry was the first to collect this for science (in the mountains west of Denver in 1861) and Asa Gray described and named this species in 1862.

"Procera" is Latin for "tall". 

Pedicularis procera
Pedicularis procera (Giant Lousewort)
Orobanchaceae (Broomrape Family)

Montane, subalpine. Woodlands, openings. Summer.
Groundhog Meadow Trail, July 3 1, 2004.

Click for more Pedicularis procera photographs.

Range map © John Kartesz,
Floristic Synthesis of North America

State Color Key

Species present in state and native
Species present in state and exotic
Species not present in state

County Color Key

Species present and not rare
Species present and rare
Species extirpated (historic)
Species extinct
Species noxious
Species exotic and present
Native species, but adventive in state
Eradicated
Questionable presence

Range map for Pedicularis bracteosa

Range map for Pedicularis parryi

Range map for Pedicularis procera